[Milton-L] re: PL and genre

BlevinsJake at aol.com BlevinsJake at aol.com
Tue Sep 7 08:03:16 EDT 2004


 
Carol,
 
Sorry, a definite exaggeration, (never comes off quite right in  email). But 
I should have known you of all people would not let me get away with  that. 
LOL.
 
No, it's not really a "tirade" against anything, but it is a speech that  
claims superiority for biblical models, thus undermining the value of classical  
learning and literature as the premier material for emulation.  Ever  
since--boy, since I was an undergraduate I bet--that passage in PR has struck me  as a 
crucial point in Milton.  The reader, having probably just finished  the 
wonderful complexity of Milton's mingling of the classical and Christian in  PL, 
gets to Christ, the son of Man himself, arguing that essentially Job is  a 
better model than Homer, David a better model than Ovid or Catullus,  etc.  
However, as great a work as PR is, it's hard to agree with Jesus  after PL.  The 
Jesus speech fits in with the theme of pagan supplementation  we see all the way 
back in the Nativity Ode and implicitly in  "Lycidas."  
 
The irony of course is that Jesus' speech shows Milton's own dependence on  
that same knowledge being underplayed--as if all of his other  
classically-modeled work isn't enough.  Milton just HAS to think that he is  doing something 
better in PR than he did in PL (does any writer venture to  write something not 
as good as his previous work?), but as readers the "Jobian"  epic just never 
works quite as well.  I argue that Milton's work  centers around this 
"problem," and if SA is indeed a later work (a big  "if," I know), perhaps it 
represents Milton's final attempt at  reconciling this classical/Christian 
issue--let's explicitly model the form on  classical tragedy but write it 
without classical allusion, without a  superficial reliance on classics, and offer a 
pure Judeo-Christian  theme set firmly in the structural conventions of a 
classical genre  (Johnson's later comments notwithstanding). With that, we're 
back to  my original positive statements for and interest in John's dissertation  
material. 
 
Let me also say, that this thread allows me, as a feel my way through my  
prelim. chapters for my project, to seek some input from this listserv,  whose 
opinions and expertise I ALWAYS value.  And forgive any lack of  clarity in this 
message as it's 4:30 in the morning; I can't sleep.
 
Best, Jacob
 
Jacob Blevins
Assistant Professor of English
McNeese State University

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